Dr Mattia Toaldo

Contact details

Dr Mattia Toaldo
Position/Fellowship type:
Stipendiary Fellow
Fellowship term:
01-Jan-2013 to 31-Dec-2013
Institute of Latin American Studies
Senate House Malet Street London WC1E 7HU
Email address:

Research Summary and Profile

Research interests:
Contemporary History, Fellowships, Human rights, International Relations, Political Institutions
Middle East, North America
Summary of research interests and expertise:

I have multidisciplinary research interests which include Diplomatic history, International Relations, Elite Studies and US History. During my Ph. D., I focused on US policy in the Middle East, the war on terror and the Arab-Israeli conflict. My current research interest is the study of the transitions towards democracy in Northern Africa, particularly in Libya. My research project at ISA is about The US Foreign Policy Elite and the Transitions Towards Democracy in the Arab World.

Publication Details

Related publications/articles:

Date Details
01-Jan-2013 'Reagan and Libya: A History of Pre-Emptive Strikes and (Failed) Regime Change’ in Jussi M. Hanhimäki, Bernhard Blumenau (ed) 'An International History of Terrorism'



Terrorism was at the heart of a prolonged confrontation between Libya and the United States from 1981 to 1986. In April of that year, the US bombed Libya as a consequence of its sponsorship of terrorism. The chapter describes also the rationale behind the first confrontations in 1981 as well as the efforts at regime change between the summer of 1985 and the summer of 1986. Overall, recently declassified records show that Libya was a testing ground for an anti-terrorism policy which combined Cold War constraints with some elements, like regime change and state sponsorship, of what would later become the War on Terror.

01-Jan-2012 The Origins of the US War on Terror


The war on terror did not start after 9/11, rather its origins must be traced back much further to the Reagan administration and the 1980s. Utilizing recently declassified archival resources, Toaldo offers an in-depth analysis of how ideas and threat perceptions were shaped both by traditional US policy in the Middle East during the Cold War and by the cooperation with the Israeli right. The book examines two case studies of American intervention in the region and of its reactions to terrorism: Lebanon between 1982 and 1984 and Libya from 1981 to 1986. The first encounter with Hizbullah and the ‘pre-emptive strike’ against Qadhafi are analyzed in light of the recently released sources.

Tracing foreign policy thinking developed by Reagan officials and Israeli intellectuals and leaders, the work demonstrates the significant impact this thinking had on US foreign policy after 9-11: ideas such as pre-emptive strikes, regime change and state-sponsorship were elaborated in the Reagan years and would later influence Bush’s Global War on Terror. The book will be of great interest to scholars of US Foreign Policy, Middle East studies and American history.

01-Jan-2012 The Reagan Administration and the Origins of the War on Terror: Lebanon and Libya as Case Studies


This article uses recently declassified records to analyze the American intervention in Lebanon between 1982 and 1984 and the confrontation with Libya between 1981 and 1986. In both cases, the US responded to a terrorist attack with military force. Especially after the attacks in Lebanon, members of the administration started to elaborate a comprehensive strategy to fight terrorism which focused on pre-emptive strikes against states deemed to be supporters of terrorism. The strike on Libya in April 1986 was the first implementation of this strategy and, furthermore, regime change had been attempted both before and after this strike. The article argues that the policy of the Reagan administration in the fight against terrorism was a combination of two factors: the global Cold War mindset and the first elaboration of concepts that would later become part of the Bush administration’s War on Terror. Rather than being the beginning of the War on Terror, however, Reagan’s policy can be considered as a source of inspiration for it, albeit one that was deeply influenced by the bipolar confrontation with the Soviet Union.

01-Jan-2012 Libya 1986-2011: A Testing Ground for the Evolution of US Foreign Policy?


More than ten years after 9/11 and in the aftermath of the release of the new US Defence Strategic Guidance, it is worthwhile to look at the origins and the evolution of the US fight against terrorism. 2011 was the year of the international intervention in Libya and from Libya in 1986 many of the concepts and the ideas of the post-9/11 US War on Terror were developed. The conceptual framework which had been developed then has been rejected by the Obama administration – something evident also from its official documents – although the concrete policy on terrorism of the current presidency has many elements of continuity with the past.


The Reagan administration, under many aspects, was the intellectual breeding ground of some of the main concepts of the war on terror, as it has been codified in the Bush doctrine and in the 2002 National Security Strategy. As a matter of fact, Reagan was the first president to approve a military strike against a country deemed to be supporter of terrorists. The US bombing of Libya in 1986 was the result of a long discussion within the White House on the best way to fight terrorism originating from the Middle East and North Africa.

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